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Barr says he will find out if officials ‘put their thumb on the scale’ in Trump investigation

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By Adam Edelman

Attorney General William Barr said in an interview airing Friday that the point of the Justice Department probe into the origins of the federal investigation into Russian election interference is to determine “whether government officials” abused “their power and put their thumb on the scale.”

“I’ve been trying to get answers to the questions and I’ve found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” Barr said in an interview with Fox News.

“In a sense I have more questions today than when I first started,” he added.

Barr said that “people have to find out what the government was doing during that period,” adding that, “if we’re worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason we should be worried about whether government officials abuse their power and put their thumb on the scale.”

“I’m not saying that happened but it’s something we have to look at,” he said.

In April, Barr said he was “reviewing the conduct” of the FBI’s Russia probe during the summer of 2016, and that the Department of Justice inspector general would release a report on the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process and other matters in the Russia case in May or June.

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have long argued that the Russia investigation had its origins in a group of biased FBI leaders who bore animosity toward Trump, including then-Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Both men have denied that they acted out of any bias, saying there was a trail of evidence of Trump campaign contacts with Russians they would have been negligent not to follow.

The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has been looking into how the FBI obtained a warrant in October 2016 to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who had traveled to Russia and had previously been the target of recruitment by Russian intelligence officers.

The Russian investigation, however, wasn’t launched because of Page, for whom four different judges, all appointed by Republican presidents, signed off on electronic surveillance. Rather, the probe’s origins were linked to a meeting that another former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had with a professor with ties to Russian intelligence

Barr testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee last month that he was reviewing whether federal authorities spied on the Trump campaign, saying he thought they had.

I think spying did occur,” he said. “The question is whether it was adequately predicated.”

Barr said during his interview Friday that, “We’re going to find out when it started.”

Trump reiterated Barr’s claim Friday morning, shortly before Barr’s interview aired, tweeting that his “Campaign for President was conclusively spied on.”

“A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!” he added.

According to The New York Times, Barr has also has assigned John Durham, the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to review the FBI’s decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into alleged ties between Trump associates and Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. NBC News has not independently verified The Times’ report.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have consistently defended the Russia investigation, which culminated in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in March. The report found “sweeping” and “systematic” Russian interference in the election and identified links between Trump campaign officials and figures associated with the Russian government. But investigators did not establish that Trump’s team “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” despite numerous contacts.

Mueller’s 448-page report also detailed Trump’s attempts to disrupt the investigation, as well as the decision not to charge the president with obstruction of justice in part because there was no underlying crime and many of the attempts were carried out in plain view.

But Mueller said that the decision not to charge Trump was a difficult one, and that it was not clear he was innocent of obstructing justice. If the special counsel’s office had been certain that Trump did not commit crimes, Mueller said, it would have said so in the report.



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Trump talks ‘Crazy Nancy’ Pelosi and treason at wild press conference

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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump repeatedly called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “crazy,” said former FBI Director James Comey and the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were guilty of treason, and declined to commit to raising the nation’s debt ceiling during a sprawling interaction with reporters at the White House Thursday.

Trump clashed with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Wednesday, cutting short a planned meeting on infrastructure spending because he is frustrated with congressional efforts to investigate his administration. Just after that confrontation, he told the media he would not work with Democrats on legislation until they halt their inquiries.

On Thursday, he took issue with Pelosi’s characterization of his abrupt departure from the room, saying he kept his cool.

“I was so calm,” he said. “Cryin’ Chuck, Crazy Nancy — I tell you what, I’ve been watching her. I have been watching her for a long period of time. She is not the same person. She has lost it.”

Pelosi quickly fired back.

“When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues,” she wrote on Twitter.

Asked whether his self-imposed ban on legislative action extends to budget matters, including an increase in the statutory debt limit, Trump hedged.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said, calling himself a “very capable” person. “Let them get this angst out of their belt.”

The House is pursuing multiple open investigations involving the administration, including follow-ups to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Trump has denied subpoena requests for documents and testimony from congressional committees, setting up court battles with House Democrats.

He reiterated Thursday that he believes he is the victim of a long-running effort to stop him from winning in 2016, delegitimize his presidency and remove him from office either through impeachment or by Democrats damaging him enough with investigations that he can’t be re-elected.

He has charged that some of his adversaries are guilty of treason, and he was asked Thursday to provide the names of people who should be held accountable for a crime punishable by death.

Trump answered with a list of names: Comey, McCain, former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former Justice Department official Lisa Page.

Strzok and Page exchanged text messages during the 2016 campaign — when the FBI was investigating his operation — that disparaged him, and attempted to prevent him from winning.

Now, Trump says, Democrats in Congress are continuing their efforts.

“Without the ‘treason’ word — they don’t feel they can win so they’re trying to do the thousand stabs,” he said.

Congressional Democrats say that Trump has systematically abused the power of his office by summarily rejecting valid requests for information related to their legislative duties and a possible impeachment inquiry.



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Marine Le Pen first husband: The ONE connection between husbands and new boyfriend

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MARINE LE PEN’s party is tipped to top the upcoming European Parliament elections in France, leading with 24.5 percent of the French vote according to a recent poll, but what is Mrs Le Pen’s personal life like?

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Trump announces $16 billion in aid to farmers as trade war continues

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By Lauren Egan and Phil McCausland

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a $16 billion aid package for American farmers aimed at softening the financial blow created by the ongoing trade war with China.

“Our farmers will be greatly helped,” Trump said during a press event in Roosevelt Room at the White House. “The 16 billion [dollar] funds will help keep our cherished farms thriving.”

Thursday’s announcement comes as tensions continue to escalate between the U.S. and China and negotiations have largely stalled.

Earlier this month, talks between the two countries ended without a deal as Trump imposed another round of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. And both Trump and President Xi Jinping of China have signaled that they are prepared for a long fight, if necessary.

Thursday’s aid package is the second bailout the Trump administration has issued in response to decreased agriculture trade with China. Last November, Trump announced $12 billion in aid to “make it up” to farmers, as he described it.

“During that time of negotiation, if everyone remembers, we had a period where China would target our farms,” Trump said Thursday. “Now is the time to insist on fair and reciprocal trade for our workers and our farmers.”

Trump added that he was “hopeful” that trade talks could begin again with China, but if that didn’t happen, “that’s fine.”

“These tariffs are paid for largely by China,” Trump continued, repeating claims that the tariffs were being paid out by China, not American importers. However, a study published Thursday by the International Monetary Fund found that the tariff revenue on Chinese goods “has been borne almost entirely” by U.S. importers.

Communities that supported Trump in the 2016 election have been some of the hardest hit by the ongoing trade war, and some say there is reason for Republicans to be concerned as the window to reach a deal with China before the 2020 election continues to narrow.

“I think President Trump is counting on his tariff bailout payments to buy support for him among farmers, but this is a bigger issue,” Richard Oswald, 69, of Langdon, Missouri, a fifth generation farmer, said in a phone interview with NBC News. “This is going to bite a lot of Republicans when it’s all set and done. I don’t think he understands the stress people are under and it shows a lack of compassion.”

The timing of the administration’s decision to roll out another bailout, as farmers are still deciding what crops to plant this season, has come under criticism from some lawmakers, especially since the aid comes with some strings.

“We want farmers to make decisions on how many acres of corn and soybeans to plant based on the market and not something the government’s doing,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters on Wednesday.

Jonathan Coppess, the former Farm Service Agency administrator and the director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program at the University of Illinois, also expressed concerns about the aid package.

“Frankly the most immediate issues they need to clear up is the requirement that you need to plant a crop to get payment. The risk of impacting planting decisions is already in place. They’re telling them explicitly that they have to plant something,” Coppess said in an interview with NBC News, cautioning the potential for a further depressed market.

In addition to the $16 billion aid funds, Trump also announced plans to roll back some regulations on farming in the coming days, although he did not provide specifics. “We’re saving our farmers and ranchers from ridiculous regulations,” Trump said Thursday.

Trump is expected to meet with Xi at the G20 summit in June.

Lauren Egan reported from Washington, and Phil McCausland reported from New York.

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